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Banishing Workplace Boredom

women experiencing workplace boredom

“I’m bored” are two words that strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. As a young mother, I quickly learned that failure to constructively address that phrase generally meant that we were in for spells of moodiness, irritability (mine as well as the kids’), petty tiffs, and more. But today, it’s not just parents who must grapple with the issue of boredom. We’re beginning to see workplace boredom.

According to recent research, this is something managers are having to deal with. Who would have guessed that given record levels of burnout, stress, and anxiety, boredom would raise its head in the workplace? And yet, in a study conducted by OnePoll for CSU Global and reported by Talker, 46% of the 2,000 Americans polled reported being bored most of the workweek.

For leaders within organizations, however, the consequences of boredom go far beyond unwanted wrangling in the backseat of the car. Bored employees can become frustrated, inattentive, and less productive employees. Their negative emotions can spread to infect other members of the team and the overall culture. And these bored employees can become a greater flight risk, introducing unwanted turnover in many cases.


That’s why savvy managers are pulling out their boredom barometers and engagement gauges to proactively assess the risks of boredom on their teams – so they can take steps to augment and elevate the employee experience. And evaluating employee sentiment begins with conversation.

While performance and problem-solving conversations are commonplace, when was the last time you checked in on how those who report to you feel about their work? Carving out time to explore people’s relationship with their work sends a powerful signal of respect and value, cultivates trust, and surfaces important information that leaders need to know. Consider incorporating questions like these into your formal and informal interactions as a way to calibrate current boredom/engagement levels.

  • What about your work brings you energy?
  • What about your work drains your energy?
  • What percentage of your capacity do you believe you’re currently using?
  • How much of your capacity would you like to be using right now?
  • How do you see your work contributing to the organization’s mission or customer needs?
  • How meaningful do your contributions at work feel to you?
  • To what extent are your social needs (your need to connect with others) met here at work?
  • When was the last time you learned something new or interesting that you could use at work?


These questions – asked with a spirit of curiosity and trust – allow you and the employee to better understand their current level of enthusiasm and engagement. And this is the first step toward co-creating a different and elevated experience for and with the employee. Depending upon each person’s unique responses, there are many ways to blast past workplace boredom.

  • Introduce variety. Find ways to mix things up. Novel tasks. Different people. New locations. Unfamiliar customers, suppliers, and partners. Variety is the spice of life and a spice that brings out the flavor of engagement.
  • Identify opportunities for greater innovation or creativity. Boredom is frequently the result of becoming an expert at a given task. Take advantage of that expertise – and build greater engagement. Offering a chance to improve a process, identify next-level features, or invent new products altogether helps the business and hampers boredom.
  • Brainstorm development interests and possibilities. Growth is one of the most powerful ways to engage the mind and soul. Work together to determine what the employee wants to learn and how they’d like to grow. Develop a plan that incorporates elements of development into each workday.
  • Offer a new challenge. Boredom and challenge cannot co-exist. So, send boredom packing by inviting the employee into their discomfort zone with new experiences that offer meaning and stretch.
  • Find ways to elevate autonomy. Heightened authority or decision-making is an effective strategy for adjusting the dynamics of an employee’s job in a way that raises the stakes and activates a heightened level of interest.
  • Explore a new view. Sometimes you won’t be able to address the ennui within the context of the current role. In those cases, you owe it to that person, yourself, and your team to consider possibilities elsewhere. Ideally, that might be within a different department or function. But, regaining excitement around one’s work may require leaving (in which case a warm departure contributes to a positive reputation in the recruiting marketplace and possible return of talented employees.)

Engagement is the key to a thriving, sustainable workforce. Today’s leaders can’t afford the metaphorical backseat bickering that can emerge when nearly half the workforce reports feeling bored. Explore people’s ‘ho-hum’ with your own ‘how come?’ Open a dialogue that allows you to replace your employee’s engagement-draining ordinary experiences with your own extraordinary commitment to their experience. And in the process, workplace boredom will be transformed into brilliance, bliss, and business outcomes.


This post originally appeared on SmartBrief.